The use of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), often just referred to as “sulphites”, in winemaking has become a much-debated and even sometimes emotive topic in the 21st century.
Since the advent of readily available SO2 in tablet or powder form, dating back roughly to the 1950s, winemakers have relied on this all-purpose elemental substance for everything from cleaning barrels to protection against oxidation and its abilities to kill stray yeasts and bacterias. It can seem almost alchemical in its ability to transform a cloudy, off-smelling funk into a estar-bright, fragrant smelling wine.
But in the last few decades with the growth of the natural wine movement, excess use – or sometimes any use – of SO2 has become increasingly frowned on. Some wine drinkers even claim they are intolerant to SO2, and that they can no longer drink conventionally vinifed wines without getting headaches.
This webinar looks at SO2’s properties, and why it is so useful in winemaking. What quantites are typically used, and which rules and regulations govern sulphur use? We will also dig into the science behind the intolerance claims. How many people are really allergic to SO2, and are the normal levels found in wines likely to cause issues or not? And why does just about every bottle of wine on the planet have those words “contains sulphites” on the back – even those made by natural winemakers who claim not to add any?
What are the challenges of making wine when a winemaker decides to minimise or completely do without the use of added SO2? What can go wrong, and how much do we know about the scourge of natural wine known as mousiness?
This session covers the whole spectrum of winemakers and winemaking, looks at the varying attitudes to sulphur usage, and what this ultimately means in terms of the quality and properties of what ends up in your glass.
Simon J Woolf is an award-winning English author and wine writer, currently based in The Netherlands.
An acknowledged expert on the developing niche of natural wine, he's written for Decanter magazine, Meininger’s Wine Business International, World of Fine Wine and Noble Rot, and many other publications. Simon is the editor of The Morning Claret, an online wine magazine which specialises in natural, biodynamic, organic and orange wine.
Simon's first book "Amber Revolution - How the world learned to love orange wine" was published in 2018, and won the Roederer Wine book of the year award in 2019. Simon has also won numerous awards for his magazine features and online columns.
Simon travels regularly to countries such as Georgia, Slovenia, Italy and Portugal, where he continues to research the stories and traditions behind artisan winemaking. His second book, Foot Trodden, a collaboration with photographer and wine communicator Ryan Opaz, was published in October 2021. It is described as a journey deep into the soul of Portuguese wine.
Simon is also active as a presenter, editor, wine judge and translator.